Quick hits of news and fresh ideas for busy parents.

Suiting Up for Halloween

Costumers are predicting a blue Halloween this year. As in Avatar blue.
"Avatar is definitely hot," said Barbara Goins of Costume Specialists in Columbus. She also expects to see super heroes out in full force on Beggar's Night, as young fans gear up for next year's Justice League movie.
For the villains among us, vampires are the go-to get-up. Dora the Explorer and Diego will likely be top choices for younger children, Goins said.
When it comes to choosing a costume, fit, warmth and comfort are important considerations, say the safety experts at Nationwide Children's Hospital.
They offered tips for parents gearing up their little goblins for a night of fun:
Be sure your child's costume is big enough to be worn over warm clothes but isn't so long he could trip. Bright, colorful costumes that can be seen easily by drivers are best. Choose costume accessories and props that are
flame resistant. Shoes should be comfortable and safe for walking. Stick with make-up or face paint for finishing touches - wigs and masks could block your child's vision. Always trick-or-treat with your child and visit homes you know well. Use sidewalks and only cross streets at well-lighted intersections. Try to finish trick-or-treating before dark. Make sure to have a flashlight handy.
-Melissa Kossler Dutton

Pertussis on the Rise

The alarm started sounding during the late spring, continued into the fall and now Central Ohio health officials are doing everything they can to halt the spread of pertussis.

Perhaps better known as "whooping cough," this bacterial infection has been hitting the area unusually hard this year. In 2009, there were 350 reported cases in Franklin County. By the end of August this year, there had been 410, enough to prompt the Columbus Public Health department to open immunization clinics.

"Reported cases of whooping cough vary from year to year and tend to peak every three to five years," explained Dr. Mysheika LeMaile-Williams, medical director and assistant health commissioner at Columbus Public Health. "Our last peak year nationally was 2005. This pattern is not completely understood, but that's why it's important that everyone get vaccinated."

The disease, which starts out with cold-like symptoms but is caused by bacteria and not a virus, progresses over two to three weeks' time to a deep cough.

In its youngest victims, a coughing fit often ends with a honking whoop, hence the name, and the disease can be fatal. Older children and adults may not experience the "whoop." Sometimes the coughing is so violent, it triggers vomiting or breaks ribs.

Few people develop fevers from the disease, which may be why many don't seek treatment when they should, assuming it will just go away on its own. But it doesn't, advised LeMaile-Williams. Oral antibiotics generally are needed to treat pertussis.

Why is pertussis hitting so hard now? It is, after all, one of the diseases that the Tdap booster shot is supposed to protect against (the others being tetanus and diphtheria).

"Children get vaccinated for pertussis, but immunity from the vaccine weakens over time," said LeMaile-Williams.

If you can't remember the last time you got a booster shot, you may need to get one again. For info, contact the public health department in your county.

-Jane Hawes


Too Much Information?

When Autumn Shah's daughter had minor surgery to remove a mole less than a week before school started, the Dublin mother shared the news with her daughter's teacher.

The doctor had cautioned Shah that the first-grader should avoid major physical activity for a bit and try not to bump the affected arm. "I told her teacher right away," she said. "Maya had a big bandage on her arm."

Determining what information to share with your child's teacher is an important consideration for parents, said Shawn Grime, president of the Ohio School Counselor Association.

Typically, parents should tell school personnel about health issues and academic concerns, he said. He suggests waiting on some personal issues until parents see whether they are having an impact at school.

"A general rule is: Is this (situation) presenting itself as a problem at school?" he said. "Use that as gauge as to whether things should be shared or not."

Waiting will give you time to evaluate the situation, Grime said. "A lot of times parents are very surprised when they hear teachers talk about their kids," he said. "Parents may see more negative behavior than we do at school."

Grime recommends parents plan what they want to say to the teacher. Rehearsing the conversation will help parents make sure it "comes out the way the need it to," he said.

-Melissa Kossler Dutton

Halloween Safety for Pets
Boo! Trick-or-treat time can be a scary time for pets. Noises, costumes and new people can contribute to anxiety - so this is a great time to think about how to keep your animals safe around skeletons, pumpkins and ghouls.
Keep the candy away from pets. Chocolate can be toxic and, really, do they need all that sugar? If it's not good for us it's not good for them. Lit candles in pumpkins can be alluring for curious cats, and they can be tipped over by any curious pet. Ingesting pumpkin isn't fatal, but it can be unpleasant for your pet's gastrointestinal tract. If your pets don't like strangers coming to the door, keep them in a separate, quiet place with a favorite toy or treat. Too much stimulation can make even the friendliest pet a little wary. -Marguerite Marsh

Booooring?

Do pretend tea parties make your eyes glaze over? Do you grow weary of playing hide-and-seek after a few minutes? Does Chutes and Ladders put you over the edge?

You're not alone. Thirty percent of parents think playing with their children is boring, according to recent poll commissioned by Disneyland Paris. But Columbus Parent offers the following cures for battling boredom during playtime.

Find age-appropriate ways to include children in your hobbies.
Pursue new interests that you and your offspring agree are interesting. Be silly. Change up traditional games and activities so they make you laugh. When all else fails, surf the net. On our website, ColumbusParent.com, we've provided links to some sites with fun, kid-friendly ideas. -Melissa Kossler Dutton